Document Important Things or Pay The Price!

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Think about how many times you communicate in a given day or week. Between email, phone calls, meetings, texting, and hallway chats, it’s a wonder any of us remember anything.

I was recently doing a “media buy” for a client and although the process was well managed and on track, there was a problem. At the last minute, we found out that the launch date and even the publication itself were different than what was originally proposed. Without going into painful detail, it was a communication breakdown that caused a great deal of confusion and stress for all parties involved and it could have been avoided with a simple email. Unfortunately, nobody took a few minutes to document any of the conversation and as it turned out, the information was important.

The root cause of the situation was a conference call that took place nearly 8 weeks before the proposed launch date. I don’t remember having that conversation, but apparently we talked about changing the original plan for more impact. A week following that call, I was given an insertion order to sign and a creative deadline that aligned with the initial plan. I signed it and never gave it a second thought. The process moved forward but when we started revising the final design and copy, it became clear something was wrong.

It’s not impossible we discussed the change and I was either not paying close enough attention, or I misunderstood. But that’s not how I remember it. In my mind, there was no reason to suspect anything was amiss. In a perfect world, the meeting organizer or vendor in this case, would have simply documented the highlights of the conversation and send it to us so everyone was clear.

This situation worked out fine in the end, but the lesson was a good reminder for us all. People don’t have perfect memories and information, especially on phone calls, can be misunderstood or misinterpreted. When you have a call or meeting to discuss key milestones, action items, or other information that has significance – get it in writing and make sure it’s fully clarified!

If you’re leading a process in a situation like this, document the key points immediately after the call while it’s still fresh in your mind. It only takes a few minutes and you will save a lot of time and grief later on.

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